By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A pro-medical marijuana advocacy group blasted Sen. Chris Romer after the Denver Democrat said that his proposed marijuana reform efforts would likely cause more than 50 percent of Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries to go out of business.
In an interview with the Daily Camera, Romer said that the medical marijuana reform bill that he is working on might require caregivers to do more than just sell marijuana. Medical marijuana dispensaries might have to offer additional health-related services like massages, as well as develop a health care plan for their patients, he said. He expects the stricter regulations for caregivers to cause many of them to go out of business.
Meanwhile, the Cannabis Therapy Institute (CTI) — a medical marijuana lobbying group — says they are disturbed by Romer’s intentions to put half of all medical cannabis caregivers in Colorado out of business.
“We need more caregiving facilities in Colorado to keep up with demand for this safe, effective medicine, not fewer,” CTI said in a press release.
Along with requiring more from marijuana caregivers, Romer is considering creating a medical review board that would look twice at medical marijuana card applications that come from people under the age of 25. He said the eight chronic diseases that medical marijuana is used to treat generally occur in older people, and that any younger patients with those ailments would have their diseases well documented.
“At that age group there is more potential for abuse,” he added.
CTI, however, said that creating a medical review board that could override the recommendation of a physician is “ludicrous, discriminatory and reeks of totalitarian rule.”
“The physician/patient relationship is sacrosanct, and the state has no right or authority to deny a patient’s Constitutional right to use cannabis as medicine if their physician recommends it, regardless of the patient’s age,” said CTI in a press release. “The state should not come between a patient and his physician with the equivalent of a ‘Pain Panel’ that gets to determine whether or not a qualified patient is in ‘true’ pain.”
Romer said that groups like CTI should be careful what they wish for when they slam some of his proposals. Other lawmakers are considering limiting the number of patients a caregiver can have, which is much more extreme than his “common sense ideas,” he said.
Romer isn’t alone in trying to get a hold of Colorado’s burgeoning medical marijuana field. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers Monday weighed in on whether medical marijuana should be taxed.
“Colorado law is clear: Medical marijuana, in most instances, should be subject to state and local sales taxes,” he said in a statement.
Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown and Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, have announced their plans on introducing bills that would reform the industry.
In his draft proposal, White proposes establishing a state monopoly to grow and distribute marijuana. The lawmaker believes doing so would help keep black market marijuana out of the supply chain.
Additionally, the draft proposal would require any prescription for the substance to be filled by a licensed pharmacist.
“We don’t allow unlicensed people to simply open up a shop and sell controlled substances like Valium or Oxycontin — that’s why they call them ‘controlled substances,’” said White last month. “So, why are we allowing that to happen with medical marijuana?”
Under White’s plan, revenue from the sale of marijuana would initially be split equally between a “rainy day fund” and a special fund for colleges and universities. After the “rainy day fund” reached $1 billion, the revenue stream would be directed entirely to higher education.
In his initial thoughts on regulating the industry, Brown said that the medical marijuana dispensaries should be at least 200 feet away from private, public and day care schools, and have to pay a city sales tax. The dispensaries should have to apply for a cabaret license in Denver — which costs $2,000 to apply for and $3,000 a year to operate — he said.
The councilman also thinks that dispensaries should have their marijuana-laced food be subjected to the same consumer protection regulations that regular restaurant food is subject to. Additionally, he believes that the FBI should do a background check on any dispensary owners applying for a license in order to “kick out the riff raff.”
Romer, White and Brown all have said that the medical marijuana industry is out of control and needs to be regulated. But CTI has other thoughts.
“You are witnessing the birth of freedom: the freedom of patients and caregivers to engage freely in their choice of medicine, who for years bought their medicine in back alleys and risked prosecution and jail just to stay alive,” the group said in a press release. “It may look like ‘freedom run wild’ for the time being, but things will settle down naturally soon.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters